Battle of the Cable Stars : Turner Unfazed by Murdoch All-News Network Challenge

From Times Wire Services

Ted Turner said Wednesday he will squash “like a bug” an all-news TV network media magnate Rupert Murdoch hopes to launch to compete with Turner’s 24-hour Cable News Network.

Turner said he welcomed the competition, but noted others--including Westinghouse and ABC together--have unsuccessfully challenged CNN during its 15 years of operation.

“I’m looking forward to squishing Rupert like a bug,” Turner said. He made his remarks at a panel discussion that opened cable TV’s annual Western Show convention.

Murdoch, in announcing plans Tuesday to start a 24-hour news network to compete with CNN, claimed CNN was becoming too liberal and needled Turner about his marriage to Jane Fonda and about his mental health.

“I don’t know whether it happened with my friend Ted marrying Jane Fonda or giving up lithium, but one thing or another, [CNN] has changed very greatly in the last couple of years,” Murdoch said.


Although Turner has agreed to merge Turner Broadcasting System Inc. with Time Warner Inc., he lamented the corporate monoliths being created by the current merger mania.

“I do not think it’s all good. I do not like to see less and less entities out there,” he said.

“It would be a very, very sad day if we just had four or five great big companies controlling all the programming and all the pipelines in the country.”

But other panelists were optimistic about what changes in technology and business will bring.

Brian L. Roberts, president of Comcast Corp., said that he expects the race with other industries to provide computer and phone services as well as TV programming will spur cable companies to healthy competition.

Barry Diller, the Home Shopping Network chairman who is trying to build a TV network from scratch, argued that creativity will not be stifled.

“Anybody with a good idea or good projects is going to get air somewhere,” Diller said.

The Western Show, which continues through Friday, has drawn more than 20,000 attendees and 300 exhibitors. New technology, channels and competitive issues facing the industry were the planned focus.

AT&T; Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp. and Hybrid Networks Inc. announced that they will jointly develop products that will allow cable-TV firms to offer high-speed data communications services. The companies hope to develop a standard for equipment that will connect a personal computer via a cable TV modem in a customer’s home to the cable TV network. In addition to data services, the standard will also include specifications for voice and video services, the companies said.

Cable TV networks are capable of delivering data at much higher speeds--up to 1,000 times faster--than traditional phone networks.